November 23, 2011
60th Anniversary of Stanislaw Lem's First Publication
- See the interactive version here!
Stanisław Lem was one of the biggest and most influential science-fiction writers in history; his books were translated into more than 40 languages and sold more than 30 million copies. Even if you haven't read Lem, you might have watched Solaris, a film based on one of his books.
This year would be Lem's 90th birthday, and today is the 60th anniversary of the publication of his first book, The Astronauts. We decided to prepare a really special Google doodle for this occasion.
Today's doodle was inspired by The Cyberiad, a series of stories about two brilliant “constructors,” Trurl and Klapaucjusz. “Lem’s stories can be somber, but The Cyberiad is comparatively lighthearted and upbeat, though it still addresses the philosophical themes found in the rest of his writing,” says Sophia Foster-Dimino, the doodle’s illustrator. “The distinctive visual style is inspired by the work of famous Polish illustrator, Daniel Mróz, whose drawings accompanied many of the editions of the book.”Sophia: This pensive from the 1972 edition of The Cyberiad becomes a lot more evocative when you remember that Daniel Mróz, the illustrator, styled Trurl after Lem himself. This is also the only image of Trurl's bird friend; we initially thought it would be nice to include him as a little easter egg, but then expanded his role. (Illustration © Łucja Mróz-Raynoch.)
This is also a doodle you can actually play. “All of Lem’s universes are rich and believable. We spent a lot of time figuring out how to pay homage to it, and quickly decided to build a small game. But the game is never quite the same each time you play it – as we felt befitted the imperfect, arbitrarily futuristic world of The Cyberiad,” says Marcin Wichary, who originally proposed the doodle and was in charge of bringing it to life. “One of the many easter eggs is that we included one item drawn by Lem himself. It’s up to you to figure out which one is it.”
Marcin: Some of our explorations of the eight-storey machine that doesn’t know mathematics all that well. We spent a lot of time figuring out the user interface and the puzzles for this and subsequent levels.
This doodle is also special in terms of creative ideas and technology used in its conception. “We were looking at Mróz’s illustrations, and how they appeared on the page. We came up with the idea to give the doodle the same proportions – there’s more room to show the universe, and hopefully more of an impact.” says Sophia. Marcin agrees: “We wanted our tribute to feel unique, big, and alive. We used some elements of HTML5 – for example <canvas> for faster graphics, Web Storage to remember whether you played the game, or touch support – but also decided not to use some others. For example, CSS3 transformations gave us poor visual fidelity that we didn’t feel respected Sophia’s intricate drawings – so we are rotating some images the old-fashioned way.”
Today’s doodle was done in collaboration with Lem’s estate and Łucja Mróz-Raynoch, the daughter of Daniel Mróz. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, that it will bring back some great memories to Stanisław Lem readers, and inspire the rest of you to check out The Cyberiad and other books!
Originally published at the Google Poland Blog
Update Dec 21: The code for this doodle has been open-sourced. For more info, see the article on HTML5 Rocks.